COP­ING WITH TECH OVER­LOAD

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Joyce M. Rosen­berg

Three years into be­ing a busi­ness owner, Becky Davis knew she needed to break the hold tech­nol­ogy had on her.

Davis, a mar­ket­ing and man­age­ment con­sul­tant to other small busi­ness own­ers, was so im­mersed in emails, texts and so­cial me­dia that she was get­ting only four or five hours of sleep a night and her hus­band said he felt in­vis­i­ble. It also hurt her pro­duc­tiv­ity — she’d get dis­tracted read­ing peo­ple’s posts and re­al­ize she’d lost two hours of work time.

“If you don’t set some rules, guide­lines and put some tech­nol­ogy bound­aries in place on us­ing your phone, tablet or com­puter, they will run your life and can very well ruin your life,” said Davis, who’s based in Dou­glasville, Ga.

Many small busi­ness own­ers in tech over­load are putting lim­its on how much time they spend on ev­er­grow­ing modes of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

For some, the an­ti­dote is more tech­nol­ogy, such as apps or pro­grams that fil­ter e-mails.

Oth­ers go low-tech, sim­ply turn­ing their de­vices off. Some tell clients they’re just not avail­able to answer e-mails and texts at night and on week­ends.

Davis now sched­ules time for so­cial me­dia post­ing and leaves her com­puter in another room at night. When she’s out to din­ner with her hus­band, she doesn’t check e-mail.

For small busi­ness own­ers pas­sion­ate about their com­pa­nies, their ded­i­ca­tion makes it hard to say no to the e-mail or text that ar­rives at 10 p.m. The tip­ping point for many has been the ex­plo­sion of so­cial me­dia sites that have some own­ers read­ing hun­dreds of posts each day, said Pa­tri­cia Greene, an en­trepreneur­ship pro­fes­sor at Bab­son Col­lege.

“There are so many streams to man­age,” she said.

Jus­tine Pat­tan­tyus has turned off most no­ti­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing e-mail and Face­book alerts. The con­stant in­ter­rup­tions pre­vented her from fo­cus­ing on do­ing work for the clients of her man­age­ment con­sult­ing busi­ness.

“How much time I was los­ing to re­spond­ing con­stantly to those out­side in­flu­ences!” said Pat­tan­tyus, owner of Spark Life In­ter­na­tional.

Pat­tan­tyus sets other lim­its. She lives in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, but her clients are five to eight hours be­hind her in the U.S. If she has clients on Pa­cific time, they’re in the early part of their work day as Pat­tan­tyus nears the end of hers. She shuts her com­puter down at 7 p.m. her time. Clients know that’s the rule when they sign on with her.

Aaron Nor­ris said he’s slowly got­ten rid of his lap­top at home for work af­ter find­ing he was read­ing emails at 5:30 a.m. and spend­ing time in the evening sort­ing through emails that he es­ti­mates were 80 per­cent spam.

Nor­ris, a vice pres­i­dent at his fam­ily’s River­side, Calif.-based real es­tate busi­ness, The Nor­ris Group, also has cut back on time Aaron Nor­ris says it’s a strug­gle to let go of his elec­tronic de­vices – and to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to read work e-mail – dur­ing his time off. Chris Carl­son, The As­so­ci­ated Press spent on e-mail at work and no longer tries to read ev­ery so­cial me­dia chan­nel.

“There has to be some peace or I just feel frayed by the end of the day,” he said.

Josh Nolan be­gan putting a bound­ary be­tween work and per­sonal life — his own and his staffers’ — about three years af­ter his web­site de­sign com­pany, Bold Ar­ray, was founded. He was work­ing more than 100 hours a week as he and his staff of five tried to keep up with clients’ ques­tions, re­quests, e-mails and texts.

“Things were get­ting a lit­tle dif­fi­cult to man­age,” said Nolan, whose com­pany is based in Costa Mesa, Calif..

His so­lu­tion: Clients are told Nolan will answer emails, phone calls and have meet­ings be­tween 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. He’ll answer texts and e-mails af­ter 10 p.m. or the next day, keep­ing the evenings clear. Week­end work is billed at a higher rate.

“Once we started set­ting those lim­its and com­mu­ni­cat­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, it helped with com­pany morale and not just go­ing in­sane with the amount of work,” he said. Small-busi­ness own­ers shared some of their tips: TECH­NOL­OGY TIPS •Set a batch e-mail pro­gram, which holds in­com­ing mail un­til you’re ready to look at it so you’re not read­ing in dribs and drabs all day, in­ter­rupt­ing other tasks. •Use mes­sag­ing pro­grams like Slack that al­low groups of peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate and share doc­u­ments, re­duc­ing the num­ber of e-mails and texts that must be read. • Carry two cell­phones, one for busi­ness and one for per­sonal use •Turn off no­ti­fi­ca­tions. • Don’t put your cell­phone num­ber on your web­site or so­cial me­dia ac­count. LIFE­STYLE TIPS: •Shut off your phone or leave it be­hind when you go out for the evening. At home, set it and your com­puter in another room. • Set a sched­ule for when you’ll read texts, e-mail and so­cial me­dia posts and re­spond to them. Let clients and em­ploy­ees know. If you’re will­ing to be reached in an emer­gency, pro­vide guide­lines about what qual­i­fies.

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